Where We Keep Our Emergency Stuff


elliot_icon.gif merlyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Where We Keep Our Emergency Stuff
Synopsis Elliot gives Merlyn a tour of the safe house purchased with his Raytech payout.
Date May 23, 2021

As Elliot weaves his way through the alley leading to their destination, his face and posture clearly tell a tale of boredom, forgettability; the look of a man who's been here before and must belong. The carefully crafted affect that should make people pay no attention to his passing or dismiss him on sight. It's always better to not be noticed entering a safe house.

The location was a steal. $350,000 doesn't go far in this economy, but can stretch far enough to include a property on the border of established municipal reconstruction. The inside may be a mess, but the structure is sturdy and safe.

Safe House 1

Sunday, May 23rd

The back door isn't labeled; whatever business this used to be took the sign with them when things got bad. Line of sight is good, few windows in the backs of the two rows of brick, two-storey shops with meager living space above. From the alley the only way to tell them apart is the breaks in the myriad shades of red brick.

Once the door is unlocked he pushes it into the space, checking for the signs of intruders that he prepared the last time he was here. No one has come or gone. He steps back to let his fiancé enter before him.

As Merlyn steps inside to look around, she glances back over her shoulder at him for a moment before she moves ahead inside. She's already taking things in–why this would work for somewhere to hide in an emergency. "You're way better at setting up this kind of thing than I would ever be," she remarks, stepping aside to allow him entrance behind her. "There were times I found safe buildings to be in for people, marked them and the like for safe places to sleep but, never something like this. Never something that lasted for anything more than a night or two."

To her, a safe house was a fleeting location, there and gone in a moment. This, however, was something different. "Have you ever had to use this one before?"

Elliot closes the door after one last check of the alleyway. "This one is brand new," he says, hitting a light switch beside the door. This backroom holds a staircase (leading upward) and a door (missing) to the storefront. Beyond is a hollowed out space littered with various clues to the previous enterprise and its purpose. Most notable are the sheets of plywood where people once window-shopped, and much of the glass that used to comprise those windows. "And expensive. All of my recent pizza delivery tips." There's no reason to talk in code here other than the intimacy of using their personal code.

"And it may end up being just a night or two," he adds, walking into the dim front of the house, empty of anything useful other than a Mantis. "The sad reality of safe houses: they get burned just as fast as an alias. If it's time to move on, you cut your losses and never return. Though, my day job probably attracts higher-level security concerns." As well as his side job, his personal investigations, his entanglement with Gideon d'Sarthe, his constant worry that what happened in Site Zero will one day catch up with him.

"I can understand that. Everywhere that I've gathered as a place to stay does tend to just be a night or two. Mostly, though, they aren't as protected. It's just a 'safe house', not a safe house." Merlyn follows him towards the front, her eyes assessing everything from the vantage points to the strength of the building and its location. "When I was younger, I'd just look for a safe place to sleep. Somewhere I wouldn't be harassed or yelled at or assaulted. Sometimes people put marks for it, so I did that for those after me. I still do it when I find places someone might need."

Perhaps she's not as paranoid, but she understands the need to hide, to protect oneself. "Now I just have friends who have places to hide out a few days at a time. Kind of nice because then I've got someone to cover me, but there's always the nagging part of me that's sure I'm putting someone in unnecessary danger. I let them make that choice, though. I can feel bad all I want, but they're the one willing to take the risk." She shrugs her shoulders. "I can't imagine putting so much pizza money into somewhere that you might only need for a couple of days. You must really value having these safe houses."

The paranoia is something she's very much picking up on, and she moves to slip her hand into his. It's for his comfort, not hers, whether he knows it or not.

Elliot smiles, he's familiar with the difference between "good" and good, accents he usually enjoys when talking about coffee. He's happy to have his hand taken, and tries to look reassuring for her sake. "I had a lot of rough nights in the city before the Ferry," he says. "Obviously we probably had very different troubles we faced on our own, but I know what you mean." He wonders what it would have been like if she'd met him then. Before he changed.

"Do you know there's a whole hobo language? A symbol system for marking places," he asks to keep things light. "Not safe, attack dog, allow sleeping in the barn, will trade food for labor. That kind of thing. I wonder if any of that symbol set made it into what you use as markers." He nods back in the direction of the stairs, turning to lead her there.

"But you're not wrong," he admits. "I may have a more… obsessive view of emergency security than Wright does, but I need to know that if something goes very wrong they'll have what they need. That you'll have what you need to avoid worst case scenarios." That one day being caught lying will drive him to grab his bag and vanish.

"A lot of that's still there," Merlyn responds. "It's got a few more that are a little more applicable to the civil war or really the aftermath of the bomb. Warnings that police commonly check the area, places where the structure looks fine but isn't, places where the structure looks unsafe but actually is… just generally safe places to sleep or places to get food for most of it." She squeezes his hand softly, her gaze in his direction affectionate. "You're looking out for people you care about and that means a lot. Might weird some people out, but I personally think it's sweet. Having someone give me options on how to protect myself? It's a way to a girl's heart."

She grins, then begins following him towards the stairs. "Ideally none of us will ever have to use any of this," she murmurs. "I can hope for a future where things are good, even if realistically someone's gonna need to use this."

"See, you get it," Elliot laments. "Feel free to tell Wright that you also think she's incorrect." He chuckles, not actually serious that anybody should ever do that.

He leads them upstairs, letting Merlyn's hand go only because it would make going up the stairwell more complicated than it needs to be. At the top he opens a door with a second key. He steps in first and switches on the lights, which dim menacingly before settling on an unenthusiastic yellow glow.

The difference between the upstairs and down is stark. It's been cleaned here in a way that still broadcasts disuse. The kitchenette is tidy, the dining table Formica and banded in aluminum. A small living room boasts a vintage sofa and CRT television with antenna. Open doors lead to what looks like two bedrooms. Here in the entryway there's a key rack beside the door, each bearing a pair of keys on a novelty keychain (Yankees, Room 303, Superman). "Safe home sweet safe home," he says.

Merlyn's eyes scan the area, taking in the place with a tiny smile. "You know, it's kind of weirdly cozy in a way," she says, glancing at the keys before focusing on the tv, followed by the kitchenette. Last, she notes the dining table, moving over towards it to wrap her hand around the banded aluminum like it were some kind of relic of a lost age. "This kind of reminds me of where my mom worked," she explains, glancing over her shoulder. "The table, I mean. She worked at a diner and I always get kind of weirdly nostalgic when I see stuff like this."

She releases it and takes a step back, turning to face him again. "I've slept in way worse places than this, so I can see how it'd actually be good if you had to stay long term. It seems safe, no pun intended. Nothing seems like it's going to fall on me or electrocute me. Kind of nice, and certainly nice enough to feel comfortable in if there's an emergency. You've done well with your pizza."

"This is the fruit of a single pizza delivery, if you can believe it," he says. "Delivery of opportunity, not a steady gig. But in a scenario where you need to lay low, it's better to be comfortable and anxious than both uncomfortable and anxious." He pockets his keys, then catches up to Merlyn.

"Would you enjoy a nostalgic diner breakfast for dinner?" he asks, "because I can make that happen." He looks around, remembers everything here is canned or vacuum sealed. "Well, I can't do that here. But later, if you want. My own history with nostalgia is generally negative, so I'm also ready to cook something you've never had, nostalgia free, if you'd rather."

"I need to learn whatever you're doing to get some luck, I don't know that I've ever had that sort of opportunity in my life," Merlyn moves so she can bump her shoulder with his. "Nostalgia can be good sometimes, but I've always found that when it's surrounded by so much shit it's best in small doses." She pats the table again. "This is enough of a thought. I'd prefer it not end up coming with a chaser of not-great nostalgia." That's something she's certain he gets.

The thought of dinner does make her smile, though. "I like it when you cook things I've never had. It's all new memories and they're honestly pretty good. I think you've managed to get a good grasp of my palette over the years, so you're working some magic. Clearly at least something magical has rubbed off on you."

"I can never thank being able to know what things taste like to other people enough," he says with a chuckle. It's different for everyone, tolerances and preferences all play a part in the sensory experience. "But I will not downplay how much of your magic has rubbed off on me. Any more magic and I'm going to be able to fly everywhere. And I would abuse that power; just hover through hallways a couple inches off of the ground instead of walking like a normal person." On and on and on forever.

"Bathroom is there," he says with a nod at the closed door adjacent to one of the bedrooms. "Working to get a backup barrel of water in case utilities are as bad as they currently are. Cabinets are stocked with non perishables, fridge stocked with water. Nothing else I'd trust to the power staying on. Emergency radios around the place, other survival basics. Water purification, batteries, flashlights. Gas stove. With the windows boarded up there's not too much smoke getting in but I've got a standing air purifier either way."

"You would be awful with too much magic, people would just get tired of you having a whole new level of humor to use against them," Merlyn grins, though it seems to stay as more of a fond smile than anything. "It's nice to think I'm rubbing off on you a little, though. Those are memories too." She's gotten in the habit of trying to make as many memories as she can too. Especially leading up to the wedding. Even if it's not a dramatic ceremony with dresses and guests and cake, it's still an equally exciting prospect and something she's taking her time to remember little details leading up to.

Merlyn glances around at the aforementioned emergency supplies, the locations of things he points out, and the mentions of others. "You're basically prepared if there's another civil war, too, which is not the worst thing to be prepared for these days," she notes, but turns to face him again, her eyes thoughtful. "It's weird for you to have something permanent, isn't it? Something other than Wright being there?"

Elliot considers Merlyn's question carefully. "The longest I ever lived in one place is still the group home," he admits, looking some shade of embarrassed. "By a long shot. I never wanted to be there and nobody other than Wright wanted me to be there either. The idea of being in a place for longer than that, where I'm loved and with those I love, is my only real dream in life." A fantasy, really, considering what's coming.

"I wouldn't say it's weird," he says. "It's still fairly new, but I'm okay with things being permanent; I just want something else in case the world has other plans. But I want the stability of permanence. I want you permanently." He avoids the usual caveat of 'as long as you want me,' smiling and trying to focus on the fact that he can see her in his life long after the world doesn't end.

"I can get that. I can really get that. I'm not used to much permanence at all. It's kind of a new thing, mostly because the bomb took everything I thought I had that was safe," she says, her look a comforting one. "I was with the group home and it was… I didn't want that to be permanence to me. I didn't want to equate that with my life being forced to be like that. I wanted my own terms." Merlyn takes a moment to look around the safehouse, her gaze just taking in details. It's somewhere safe, and it's somewhere she can use if she needs it.

"I never really got that whole 'home is where the heart is' bullshit before because people would just use it to try and make their houses look cozy, but it makes sense in some way, when it's not about a physical location," she looks back at him, reaching a hand to rest on his arm. "I love you, Elliot. I want this to be us, permanently, wherever we have to be to have it happen. Townhouse, safehouse, anywhere. I'm going to be someone you can come home to because I want to be a home for you. I want you to be that for me."

Butterflies start to be obnoxious in Elliot's gut, and he can't help but blush a little. He doesn't look away to hide it, content to let his guard lower ever further. "I want that too," he says quietly.

Resting her hand on his arm, Merlyn leans in to plant a soft kiss on his cheek. "I'm glad we're doing this," she says. "Not the safe house, I mean, that's good, I just mean…" She finds herself blushing at her usual rushed need for clarification. "I mean that I'm glad we're getting married. Makes me feel like there can still be good things in the world even when a lot of it has gone to shit. It's hope."

It's powerful hope, and he needs as much as he can get. He takes her hand from his arm to raise to his mouth and kiss, clearly savoring the rambling clarification. "We'll hope together," he says. "As long as it takes. I love you." He doesn't feel like he's going to wear the phrase out, or that she'll tire it heading him say it; but there's power in repetition. In ritual.

He lowers her hand but doesn't let go, instead leading them toward the bedrooms. "I should show you a couple security features before you distract me into behavior unbecoming of an unmarried man."

"I like it when you're unbecoming," Merlyn teases, but she lets herself be led. Security features are important, after all. She laces her fingers with his. "I have never had security features in anywhere I considered a safehouse, so you've already got one up on me." She's also never had a safehouse she's had to just run out from, so safety features are much more of an afterthought.

"Well then," Elliot says happily, "I'll just breeze right through the security stuff so we can unbecome."

The bedroom they enter is dark, and only dim when he switches on the lights. It's spartan, a queen size bed, unassuming nightstands, a wide closet with no doors. The most standout feature of the room is inside the closet, where the sheetrock has been cut away, along with bricks from the wall hidden behind it. Beyond that gap is the back of another room's drywall, scored with a knife and marked with blue painter's tape. "Kick here for a secondary way out," he says. "The building next door is unoccupied, and it's unlikely anything will ever keep you from being able to get out this way."

"I don't think unbecome is quite the word we're looking for to describe what we're going to be doing," Merlyn says, glancing around at the features before back at him. "Thank you. All of this means a lot, especially because it makes me feel like you've got my back regardless of where you are or what I happen to be doing."

"I'm happy to provide," Elliot says, "and I do have your back regardless of what you're doing. Even though it's definitely unbecome. I looked it up just now."

Having not actually done that but appearing very confident, he steps toward the closet. Hidden there amongst the stacked bricks is a series of unassuming backpacks of various makes. He picks one from among them and sets it on the nearby bed. "Unrelated to my words usury correctness," he says, willing to let it go if she is, "These emergency bags are fairly identical in content. You don't need to use this bag if you want to use your trademark backpack. All you're looking for is something that has enough pockets to keep your gear organized without looking tactical. Don't want somebody pegging you as a mark for survivalist robbery."

“Somehow I doubt you looked things up that quickly, but I’ll give you a pass, just this time,” Merlyn comments, but her attention is drawn to the bags. “I like my bag, but that’s just for branding purposes. Merlyn and her magic bag, y’know? It’s also pretty old, so I guess there will be a good nostalgia this time.”

“I hate to say that you are both paranoid and prepared,” she starts, “but you kinda are.” Merlyn’s smile is gentle, a tease rather than a pick at him. She leans in close to steal a kiss. “If I’m going to be a mark for someone, I’d rather it be you than someone wanting to jump me.” She pauses for a moment. “I didn’t think through that phrasing…” She clears her throat, blushing before she looks to the bags again.

“Right, big bag, lots of pockets…”

Elliot hums in careful consideration of the ways Merlyn's phrase could have been misinterpreted, nodding thoughtfully. "Interesting," he decides, hooking a finger into the neck of her shirt to keep her in kissing distance while he ponders. Seeming satisfied, he gets in a quick kiss of his own before letting go.

"You are mostly correct about the paranoia," he says, honestly but not defensively. "I don't like feeling trapped. Having a way out is a big deal."

“That is a feeling I can absolutely understand. There’s a reason I do a lot of moving around, staying in different places. Keeping little around in paper about my very existence,” Merlyn smiles in his direction. “You’re now one of the few things tying me to the world. Not just anyone gets that privilege.”

She winks at him. “You’re willingly trapping yourself with me, though, so I’m touched. You’ve got a way out in the long run, there’s always that. Somehow I think you like this kind of trapped though.” She takes a moment to look through bags, nodding slowly. “You could find one with a lot of pockets in something like a messenger bag too, sort of blend in more in a posh crowd.”

"I would never consider myself trapped by you," he says kindly, feeling the need to remind her he isn't running away again even if she was only joking. "Not looking for a way out. Only a way back." She's close to him still, but he draws her closer by her belt loops. "We're in this together and I love you."

That’s a whole handful of butterflies in her stomach, and her grin is almost shy as she looks back to him. With the closer distance, she takes the opportunity to wrap her arms around him. She’d go for the neck, but it’s a lot harder to angle herself comfortably with the height difference.

“I’m glad that’s how you feel. For a lot of things, you do feel trapped, you like to have those ways out, those escapes to safety. The fact that you’re…” Merlyn starts to continue, to try to put into words how meaningful it all is, how much it touches her. “I love you,” she murmurs, and gives up entirely on the words and stretches taller so she can pull him down into a kiss.

Elliot fumbles the kiss, already on his way to sitting down in order to accommodate the height difference. He sits down past the perfect kissing height as she's standing tall, then laughs through his nose as he rests his head against her chest for a moment. "Take two," he says, looking back up to meet her in the middle again.

“You know, I don’t think I would have found such a fumbled kiss quite as cute if it was anyone other than you,” Merlyn notes, tipping her head downwards as she laughs, trying once more to meet him in the middle with a kiss.

They meet and Elliot luxuriates in the kiss. His hands stay on her sides, knees outside of hers to keep her right up against him. He could stay like this forever and nearly does before remembering there's more to show her. He breaks off the kiss and nuzzles into her neck for a moment as he prepares to give her the bad news. "Okay wait," he says, smiling and happy and hungry for her, "need to go over this real quick before the unbecoming."

“Your safehouse has more special features?” Merlyn’s tone is amused, even if she was making a face at the interruption. “If you’re trying to impress me Elliot, you should know you’ve already won me over by now. But I’ll bite, what other key features does your lovely abode have?” She plants a small kiss against the side of his neck before she straightens herself up and glances around.

He can make short work of this bit. "This'll only take a second." He opens the bag fully, displaying rows of mesh pockets filled with tools and water purification tablets. Other notable items are a hand crank radio, duct tape, calorie bars, a head lamp, and a sturdy camp knife. "This knife can take a beating, so don't be afraid to treat it roughly."

Then slips something from his jacket pocket smoothly enough to obscure it entirely. "This one however," he says, turning his hand to reveal a black folding knife, "is the kind you want to keep on your person and in good condition. I had to make some guesses based on the size of your hands."

He holds it away and to the side, clear of any chance of injuring either of them when he presses a button to spring the blade open with a soft click. The handle is rough to provide a good grip, formed to keep fingers from slipping toward the blade. "I told the salesman that I needed something for somebody small enough to jam their hand into a key box to steal an envelope from a dead drop while you're rambling because they're cute as fuck," he explains, feeling nervous as he deftly spins the deployed knife toward himself so she can take the handle. "Press the same button to unlock it and fold the blade back in manually."

Etched into the steel blade is a name: Dead Drop Thumbtack.

“I liked you rambling,” Merlyn notes with a small grin. “You weren’t an asshole and I regretted not telling you I snuck it as soon as you got slightly hurt. Besides, you still got me to go out with you.” She pauses. “And you did not tell that to any salesperson. I call utter bullshit.” She takes ahold of the offered knife, giving the button a little test to get a good feel of it opening and closing. “Also, excellent job of knife names. No one’s given me a weapon with a name before.”

"I am a terrible liar," Elliot says regretfully, sighing sadly.

"Back then, Wright said she wished you'd hoodwinked me," he says with a laugh. "It would have been even more hilarious, I don't disagree. But I'd prick myself on that thumbtack a thousand times and never complain, because I'd do anything to keep talking to you for even one more minute. To be able to hold you close as often as I can. So I hope you like it." He wraps his arms loosely around her legs but leans back for a better view of her above him.

"Also I feel like I should clarify that this is not your wedding ring," he adds.

“Fuck, you’re way too cute. I had to give up the ruse when you were so mortally injured because I’m a sucker for a pretty face,” Merlyn flashes him a smile, closing and tucking the knife away for safe keeping. With her freed hands she reaches to tousle his hair playfully. “You know, it’s just about as good as one. I can wear it around in bars and it’ll scare off the wrong people from hitting on me.”

The sly grin she’s got plastered across her face is more of something akin to happiness than amusement and it turns into something more tender the longer she looks at him. “I love you,” she murmurs.

"I love you too," Elliot says, more confident than ever. He could fall asleep in her touch, but he's not done yet.

"So, one last last thing," he says without pulling away from her. "The only thing in this house that I haven't tested yet is the beds." He looks down at the one he's sitting on and gives it an investigative pat with one hand. His eyes travel back up to Merlyn, curious and playful.

"Would you like to… unbecome?"

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